How to Back Lever – The Complete Guide

The Back Lever is one of the three lever exercises in Calisthenics (alongside with the Front Lever and the Planche).

It is a static hold normally performed on the still rings or the pull-up bar.

A front lever is performed by lowering from an inverted hang, with straight arms, until the body is completely horizontal, facing the ground.

Levers require a high degree of back and core strength. Their isometric nature, helps your tendons get stronger too.

There are many variations for the Back Lever… But the main way of progressing is starting from the smallest possible position building out into a full Back Lever.

Here is how :

1. HOLLOW POSITION

First things first – you can’t execute the Back Lever properly without holding a hollow body position.

This is an important position, as it makes a lot of Calisthenics movements (like the Front lever, handstand and planche) easier to hold and better looking! 

In order to practise the hollow position you need to lie on your back with arms overhead, biceps by ears, and legs outstretched.

Lift your legs and arms so shoulders and feet are off the ground. 

Keep the head in a neutral position.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

2. INVERTED HANG

An Inverted Hangs is performed by hanging upside down from the bar or rings. 

It feels like doing a hanging handstand.

The easiest way to pull to the inverted position is with bent arms and your body tucked… Try starting with a pull-up first and eventually progress to using less of a pull-up (straighter arms) and less of a tuck (extended feet).

When you are working these progressions you should focus on keeping your core tightengaging your quads, glutes and abs.

Inverted Hangs are a great way to build isometric strength and work your grip in order to accomplish the Back Lever.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

3. SKIN THE CAT 🐱


The Skin The Cat exercise helps you build straight arm pulling strength, required for the Back Lever. 

Start in a regular hanging position and pull yourself through the Lever Position to an Inverted Hang and move down backwards to a hanging position. 

Keep your shoulders and hips in line and use your back and core strength to pull your body… don’t to use your arms’ strength to pull yourself up… Your arms must remain straight.

You need to be able to do at least 10-15 reps in one set, before moving to the next progression.

4. TUCK Back LEVER

The Tucked Lever mimics the full Back Lever except the legs are tucked up to the chest (the hips and shoulders remain in horizontal alignment). 

It takes some of the weight out of the skill and makes it easier. 

Hold the rings or bar, as you would like to pull up… Then lift your legs up and rotate your position about 360 degrees.

Your knees should stay close to your chest and connected together.

5. ADVANCED TUCK Back LEVER

Now that you can hold the Tuck Lever, you can begin to open up a little.

This will bring you into the Advanced Tuck position, bringing your legs out slightly – still tucked – but aiming for a 90 degree hip angle.

The Advanced Tucked position will help straighten out your back and teach you to engage your muscles properly before you can straighten out more… 

Remember to keep your hips and shoulders in line.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

6. SINGLE LEG Back LEVER 

The next progression is the Single Leg Back Lever, where you need to keep one leg tucked into the chest with the other leg extended out to the full lever position. 

You should alternate legs during the hold.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

7. STRADDLE Back LEVER

The last progression, before the actual Back Lever, is the Straddle Back Lever. 

For this one, just like in the full Back Lever, you keep both your legs extended… but spread to deload and shorten the lever slightly.

Over time you will begin to bring your legs together, but until then, try to keep your legs as wide as possible to make it easier.

You need to be able to hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before moving to the next progression.

8. Back Lever

calisthenics back lever

Finally, you can bring your legs together and hold a FULL Back Lever

Well done!!

But remember to ALWAYS keep a Hollow Body position and straight arms.

Also, your spine must be straight in order for the position to hold and look better.

Keep practicing it along with the other Calisthenics levers (Front Lever and Planche) !

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